Find Out Which Way You Interpret The Bible

@@Ever wonder why someone interprets a verse entirely different than you?@@  Especially when you think the meaning is so obvious?  Ever have an argument with someone about the Bible, where it seems like you are just talking past each other or talking in circles?  One reason that happens could be because they have an entirely different approach to the Bible than you do.  There are several perspectives to take when reading the Bible, some healthy and some not so healthy.  We'll take a look at 3 different ways to interpret the Bible.

Knowing These 3 Ways Will Help You To Better Understand Others - And Yourself

There's a popular worship song with the phrase "He gives and takes away".  One church lady didn't like that phrase and asked God how He could "take away".  She said, He answered her by saying that He gives the good but takes away the bad.  However, this stands in contrast with the context of the Book of Job where God does take away the good. So is she wrong?

Biblical scholar, D.A. Carson tells of a time that a man told him the meaning of a verse in the Gospel of Matthew.  D.A. Carson told that man he was wrong and clearly laid out why the man's interpretation was not possible.  However, the man still held to his interpretation even thought he couldn't deny Carson's facts.  Why?

Hopefully, the following 3 ways of interpreting the Bible with shed light on how you and other people understand your Bibles.  There are definitely wrong ways to interpret the Bible, but there are multiple right ways.  @@The Bible is multi-dimensional and understanding the dimensions may help us understand others@@.

The 3 Ways: Eisogesis, Exegesis And ExePneuma

1. Eisogesis

Eisogesis literally means "into the text" and it is one of the unhealthy ways to read your Bible.  Sometimes called "proof-texing", it's when people read their own meaning into the text or they may cherry pick a verse to support their theology, even though it contradicts the context of the verse.  An obvious example of this would be if someone said that Psalm 14:1 says that "There is no God".  However, the full verse is: The fool says in his heart, "There is no God."

Less obvious are verses such as Jeremiah 29:11:

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

It's funny that no one ever mentions the verse just a few chapters before:

And I myself will fight against you with an outstretched hand and with a strong arm, even in anger, and in fury, and in great wrath.
-Jeremiah 21:5

Both verses need to be read in context and shouldn't be cherry picked to use how anyone sees fit.

2. Exegesis

Exegesis means "out of the text", because when you're doing exegesis, you are trying to derive the meaning from the text and not reading your own meaning into it.  There are two main methods for doing exegesis.  They are called the historical-grammatical method and the allegorical method.

The historical-grammatical method tries to determine the original authorial intent.  In other words, what was the original author trying to say to the original reader? This method relies a lot on contexts.  It looks at literary context, historical context, and cultural context, to name a few.  I would consider mirror-reading to be part of the historical-grammatical method, as it tries to reconstruct the "situational context".  In other words, what was the situation that the original author was writing or responding to?  If you don't know about mirror-reading, be sure to subscribe.

The allegorical method sees the Bible as metaphor or analogy and tends to be more popular within the Eastern Orthodox Church. Here is an example about the Parable of the Good Samaritan from one of the great Church theologians, Augustine. Theologian, C. H. Dodd, summarizes:

"...the man is Adam, Jerusalem the heavenly city, Jericho the moon – the symbol of immortality; the thieves are the devil and his angels, who strip the man of immortality by persuading him to sin and so leave him (spiritually) half dead; the priest and levite represent the Old Testament, the Samaritan Christ, the beast his flesh which he assumed at the Incarnation; the inn is the church and the innkeeper the apostle Paul."

The difficult thing about the allegorical method is that it's hard to say whether it's correct or not.  It doesn't rely on context like the historical-grammatical method does and so it's hard to prove or disprove.

3. ExePneuma

@@Do you use ExePneuma when you interpret the Bible?@@ It's a term that I made up, and it means "out of the Spirit".   It seems to be a popular way that people interpret the Bible, especially among Charismatic Christians.  It's when the meaning of the text is revealed or inspired by the Holy Spirit.  Depending on your theology, this may not even be considered a possibility.  However, whether you believe it can be out of the Spirit or not, there are definitely some people that do believe that it can be.

It can be confused with eisogesis since it can appear that one is simply reading their own meaning into the text.  It's also similar to the allegorical method, since it is difficult to prove or disprove.

Recognize How You And Others Interpret The Bible.

There are other ways to interpret the Bible but the 3 ways listed above will probably be what you'll encounter when talking with others. When discussing Scriptures with others, be sure to understand which of the 3 ways they are interpreting the Bible.  It may not help you agree with each other, but at least you will know why they see things so differently and may help avoid unnecessary arguments.

Header Image PHOTO CREDIT: brett jordan cropped from original